Just last week, there was an international outcry over Burundi’s approval of a new media law that forbids reporting on matters that could “undermine national security, public order or the economy.” A number of organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have condemned the new law as an assault on press freedom. According to the BBC, party officials in Burundi believe the law will prevent journalists from inciting ethnic hatred and endangering national unity. A number of media advocates have argued that this legislation has regressed important progress in the country’s reconciliation process. Burundi, a country struggling to restore peace after more than a decade of civil war, faces a challenging process of establishing citizen state relations. As noted in a report by Henriette von Katenborn-Sachau, in 2005, Burundi’s private media played a significant role in facilitating public trust and building support for the acceptance of the Arusha Accords.
Ten years after Iraq was declared as liberated, many are reflecting on how Iraq presents itself to the world today. Our mediatised view of the country is one rife with renewed sectarian divide, and as previously written, any economic good news is overshadowed by the rise violence. One aspect given much attention in the efforts to build a new Iraq was the media sector. A decade later the Iraqi government announced their decision to ban Al-Jazeera and nine Iraqi television channels, eight of which are Sunni. They claim the channels were fuelling sectarian divide.
On the same day as the media ban and the anniversary of “liberation”, Dr Al-Safi quietly launched his academic study of Iraqi media. His research for “Iraqi Media” lasted three years and earned him a PhD from City University, London. The book offers a fascinating chronological juxtaposition of dictatorship and occupation and this thorough, academic study of Iraqi media pre and post Saddam also has its “shock and awe” moments. Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the journalist tallies with the popular narrative on his reign, but the fact that Uday Hussein’s paranoid actions may have been perversely good for Iraqi journalists is a new story. Through his interviews with hundreds, Al Safi also reveals complexities and challenges in a frank and detailed account of the post Saddam attempt to build a “free” media. He claims, the largest media-building project ever attempted.
This morning I tapped “Baghdad News” into Google and over half of the first 40 results were about bombing and violence. A further 12% of results were political analysis (mostly about bombing and violence). And there was a smattering of more positive news, mostly on Iraqi news channels: three stories on the reinstatement of flights between Baghdad and Kuwait; one story about art; and another about nice pavements. Hardly dynamic, dramatic news and negative news appears to dominate.
In 2012, Pakistan's biggest English language news agency Dawn helped me to conduct a survey, which looked at how people build perceptions of nations. With an academic interest in nation branding, and public diplomacy, I was staggered to see that 83% of respondents drew their perceptions of Iraq from the media. And not surprisingly, these were largely negative.
As the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq draws near, the political pundits swarm and draw their conclusions about Baghdad and Iraq, and Blair and Bush are challenged with the rhetoric of “was it worth it?” Having penned a modest account of “A Better Basra” I too am drawn into the discussion, canvassing my Iraqi friends for their opinion.
3 November marks five years since CommGap writer Caroline Jaine was evacuated from the Iraqi city of Basra. In 2006 she was heading Press & Public affairs at the British Embassy Office, during what proved to be one the most perilous moments during the British occupation. Today her book - a personal account of her 100 days in Iraq - is launched with a seminar at the House of Lords in London. The seminar, like the title of the book, draws from the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan for a “Better Basra” and looks at whether the city is in fact any “better” today.
An extract from A Better Basra appears below:
Here was that movie feeling again, but this time the soldiers, perhaps about a hundred or so of them, were like extras waiting to go on set. I was intrigued about where they had been, what they had done in Iraq so far and where they were off to. What was their day like? Why weren’t they at that moment busy “soldiering”.
In recent months, it’s become more evident that journalism is a dangerous business. Yet, good journalism is crucial for good governance and for an informed citizenry. During the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East, journalists, professional and citizens alike, have been beaten, imprisoned, or gone missing for reporting (or trying to report) facts and stories from the ground. The sad truth is that the number of attacks on the press around the world is increasing. In fact, there has been a dramatic increase in the last decade.
As we have discussed in other blog posts, public opinion is particularly important in countries with weak institutions of governance and accountability. Especially in fragile and conflict states, it can lend legitimacy to the government, help creating a national identity, and support governance reform. Unfortunately, public opinion is particularly hard to measure in those societies where it could be most important.
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- The World Region
- Middle East and North Africa
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Transnational Connections
- Small Group Deliberation
- Public Opinion
- Participatory Budgeting
- Opinion Polls
- Opinion Polling
- Online surveys
- National Identity
- Monrie Price
- Mahmood Enayat
- Julia Shmko
- IE University
- Ibrahim Al Marashi
- Gram Sabhas
- Gram Panchayats
- fragile states
- Deliberative Polling
The issues of journalism and a free press come to mind these days. With a significant number of journalists attacked in, among other countries, Russia, just in the past few months, we clearly see the dependence of the media system on the political environment in a country. Journalism training is the major form of media development - how to use new technologies, how to write a good feature, how to sniff out a corruption scandal - but is anyone thinking about what happens to reporters in countries where the rule of law is weak? This year alone, 16 journalists have been killed in the line of duty, as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports. Last year: 71. Since 1992, more than 800 journalists have been murdered as a direct consequence of their reporting. Iraq, the Philippines, Algeria, and Russia are the four deadliest countries for journalists.